Brussels abounds many paradoxes. Bureaucratic yet artistically rich, multicultural yet strongly attached to its Belgium roots, modern yet nostalgic, Brussels is a multi-identity city. Often forgotten on travelers’ list, Brussels remains nonetheless an important city to visit if you are interested in cinema, art, theatre or any form of artistic activity.
Because Brussels is so culturally rich, this weekend getaway guide will give just a glimpse of the city’s artistic identity. I hope you enjoy!
Friday night: Explore the Beer Culture of Brussels
With only three days in Brussels, you will want to dig directly into the Belgian culture after your arrival. Arguably the capital of beer, Brussels harbors hundreds of cafés and bars where beers are put on a pedestal. Here is are my top 3 café/bars of Brussels.
A La Mort Subite
Located in the old town, near the Grande-Place, A La Mort Subite is a very retro brasserie. When discovering the place, you will be submerged in nostalgia, because of its 1920s decoration and style.
La Porteuse d’Eau
Stunning stained-glass dome and windows, wooden floor that is creaky, beer-based cuisine, La Porteuse D’eau is a gorgeous brasserie that one must head to. The extensive Belgian beer selection, as well as the Art Nouveau decoration, will make you travel into the 1920s Belgium.
With more than 150 beers on the menu from local artisanal specialties to more well-known beers, this brasserie is for the avid connoisseurs of beers. Its atmosphere is quite a special one too, with puppets, old objects and posters invading the walls and ceilings of the building, the Poechenellekelder will give you an out-of-reality feeling.
Saturday: Visit the varied selection of Museums in Brussels
Before being a bureaucratic city, Brussels is first and foremost an artistic city. It has welcomed actors, comedians, singers, painters and cartoonists for centuries, and this is reflected in the cityscape in every way. This day should vary according to your tastes but here are four of my favorite museums in Brussels.
Discover Magritte with a Surrealist Trail in Brussels
René Magritte is one of the most famous artists in Belgium if not the most famous artist. He was known for his surrealist and thought-provoking paintings such as The Son of Man, which depicts a man with a green apple painted in front of his face or the famous This is not a Pipe Painting. He is a symbol in Brussels and this is reflected in the city’s many museums dedicated to the man.
L’Atomium would probably be my first choice if you would like to discover an interactive exhibition on Surrealism and Magritte. In addition, the building offers a great view of the city. The building is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day.
Atomium meets Surrealism from 21.09.17-10.09-18
The Magritte Musée (do not mix up with the Renée Magritte Museum outside of the city center) has also an extended collection of Magritte’s artworks. It is a must for all Surrealist lovers. It is open from 11 am to 6 pm on weekends.
Tintin, The Smurfs, Lucky Luke, many of the greatest comic books have been created by Belgian artists. If you are a comic book fan, head to the Musée de la BD in the city center of Brussels. Art Nouveau structure mixed with comic book-style decoration, this museum is quite something to visit.
It is closed on Sundays but remains open Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm.
Belgian Chocolate Museum
To give you a little idea of what you can expect from this delicious museum, here’s a quote you can find on its website: “Nine people out of ten love chocolate. The tenth person lies.” J.G Tullius
In this museum, you will discover the history of chocolate, how it is made as well as taste some of the chocolates of course. Find this museum open from 10 am to 6 pm on weekends.
Saturday Evening: Music, Cinema, Theatre in Brussels
Saturday evening is the perfect occasion to head for a movie night. Brussels has amongst its cinemas the oldest projection rooms in Europe. With three projection rooms, Actor Studio Cinema invites you in their cozy and old-fashioned seats. The films are carefully selected so you can be sure to enjoy them.
Alternatively, if you would prefer a more jazzy night, you can have a look at the Archiduc, one of the best Jazz Clubs in Brussels. They usually have nights on Friday and Saturday evenings.
If none of these two appeals to you, maybe La Maison du Spectacle La Bellone could be luckier. It’s an artistic center from the 1980s that welcomes theatre spectacles, ballets, dance in a Renaissance styled- building.
Sunday: Architecture Tour
It can come to a surprise to find that the activities you wanted to do on Sundays are closed. Opening times differ greatly from country to country in Europe, and Brussels, together with Berlin and Paris, is one of the rare cities where all shops remain closed on Sundays.
So your shopping spree will have to be on a Saturday if that was something you wanted to do. However, I found that Brussels houses many architectural gems that are amongst the most amazing in Europe. Sundays would be a great occasion to visit these.
UNESCO World Heritage, Art Nouveau, Modernist, Neo-Classical, Belgian buildings will satisfy any preference. Here are my favorite places to head for this architecture tour.
The Major Town Houses by Victor Horta’s
Victor Horta (the architect that famously invented the Art Deco Metro Signs of Paris) built many different houses in Brussels, but as we only have three days in Brussels, the four UNESCO World Heritage houses will do a great first introduction. They are the Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde and the Maison and Atelier Horta.
The Maison Saint-Cyr by Gustave Strauven
Head to Victor Horta’s protégé Gustave Strauven’s flamboyant building: the Maison Saint-Cyr. Built in 1903, this house distances itself from the neighboring houses with its extravagant iron decorations. While you’re in the neighborhood, you can stroll around the Ambiorix square, with its nice park.
The City Hall
Gothic façade, grandiose towers from which you can view the whole of Brussels, as well as extended rows of statues, the Grand Place will sweep you off your feet.
I hope this weekend getaway guide has helped you discover Brussels in an artistic light! If you have recently traveled to Brussels, please share your experience with us in the comments below.
Morgane Travers is an Art and travel lover. She is always avid to discover new places. Follow her adventures on https://www.instagram.com/